Not since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 has Freemasonry in America (and around the World really) faced a situation like we are now with the current coronavirus pandemic; Freemasonry is shut down. Or is it? Now, don’t get me wrong, the decisions coming from our Grand Lodges across America and elsewhere are absolutely without a doubt the right decisions. Our membership demographics tilt towards the older, and it is that demographic that is most susceptible to this virus. But that doesn’t mean that Freemasonry is cancelled as the memes in r/freemasonry say they are. Not by a long shot. There are plenty of ways that Masons can still do our work; Facebook watch parties and Virtual Lodges being two such opportunities for us to meet and “do our work”.
Let me touch on the Facebook watch party first, as locally in my area we’ve been doing this for several weeks now as an informal club of Masons from in, and around my Masonic district. While our group focuses on Esoteric topics, if this is something you as a Mason want to do it certainly can be on any Masonic topic, there is no limit. Our group however started out as a club if you will from another of the Lodges in my District, a brother who was looking for more esoteric education topics decided to start it about a year ago. When the group first started, we met at the Lodge, local bars/restaurants or even another Brother’s home. But, given that all of us work and have families, adding additional events to already busy calendars can be difficult. So, about a month ago we held the first of our Facebook watch parties. In two days, we watched a good portion of the ‘Kabbalah Revealed’ series on YouTube, but honestly the best part of it is the fellowship, the banter, the conversation over what we were watching. The same kind of conversation we would have had in person mind you, just over the internet.
Obviously, this type of event cannot and will not replace our Stated and Called Communications, but I would certainly recommend every Brother and Lodge and/or District look at implementing something similar. There are simply far too many Masonic interests and not enough days for physical meetings. A club that meets virtually at the leisure of those involved makes this easier to manage. Even once shut downs lift and we go back to normal, these clubs serve a great service to Freemasonry by uniting Brethren in a common interest in fellowship and learning. Its not at all hard to set up, all you need is a topic, a couple Brethren that share interest in that topic and an internet connection. Most importantly, if you miss the meeting there is a recording or YouTube video you can watch later when you have the time.
This next topic however, depending on your Grand Jurisdiction can be a bit…controversial. The “internet Lodge”. Masons the world over, perhaps because we’re like the Catholic Church and change at the speed of glaciers are shocked to learn that yes…there is such a thing as an internet Lodge. An internet Lodge is a Masonic Lodge that meets in a completely virtual situation, they have no physical building whatsoever. Several of these Lodges exist; Castle Island Virtual Lodge in Manitoba, and the Kansas Lodge of Research in Kansas. These Lodges are regular and beholden to a mainstream Grand Lodge; they are not clandestine, irregular, etc., yet some Grand Lodges treat them this way. There are Grand Lodges out there that prohibit their members from attending a virtual Lodge, prohibit their members from joining one as well. As someone who has attended a virtual Lodge meeting, and plans on attending more, and likely affiliating with CIVL I can tell you there is nothing to be afraid of.
A Stated Communication at an internet Lodge is just like any other Lodge meeting, except for where you meet. A meeting of an internet Lodge takes place from the comfort of my home office, over a meeting service such as Zoom or Skype. The Lodge is tyled, I have to provide my dues card and go through the process of proving I am a Mason in good standing. The Lodge has a Charter from a Grand Lodge. There is business, the paying of bills and all that other good stuff we as Masons are used to. But, the focus of the virtual Lodge is the educational program. To date I have attended two meetings of CIVL, and the educational programs are top notch. Now, I would be what you call one of those Masons who complains about how much business we do in Lodge. I’m not saying there should be no business at a Stated Communication, there should be, after all if we don’t pay our bills our doors won’t stay open for long. But, the program of the meeting should be the focus of what we’re there for, not the business and reading the minutes. This in my opinion is where the internet Lodge shines and can teach us a thing or two about running in person meetings. But as I said above, some Grand Lodges are seemingly afraid of the internet Lodge, and try and put prohibitions on their members participating in them. As far as I’m aware though, as long as a Lodge is legitimate and has a Charter from a recognized Grand Lodge, there is no prohibition on attending a meeting…
Humanity has survived so long due to our ability to adapt, Freemasonry not withstanding its glacial speed at which it makes changes is no different. Often times it’s situations like this which make us evaluate our situations and change. I hope that we treat this pandemic as such a situation and make meaningful changes to adapt Freemasonry to society in the 21st century. We live in a society where both parents work, our children have countless after school activities to get to yet Masonry by and large remains inflexible to how we meet. I’m not saying give up in person meetings wholly, that too would be a mistake. But we must adapt to the lifestyle of our membership if we wish to remain relevant in the future. I’ve given two options, options not to replace what we have, but to supplement our Craft and keep us relevant to the times we live in. Many of you may take what I’ve written here as heresy, and that is OK. But given where our membership numbers are going, perhaps its time to take a look at some truly unique (at least for Freemasonry) solutions to our problems?
Stay safe, and stay healthy!
This article in no way represents any official Grand Lodge position or opinion. The writings here are mine, and mine only.